NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Book of Boba Fett” are present in this review
Despite flirting with the idea of keeping to an annualized schedule, it would appear that The Mandalorian’s upcoming third season was unable to make it to Disney+ in 2021. Fortunately, that series had concluded its previous second season with the announcement of a spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett, which parks the post-Empire canon squarely on Tatooine in order to catch up with the Star Wars franchise’s recently-revived fan-favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Fellow The Mandalorian alum, Fennec Shand also stands beside Boba as he takes control of Jabba the Hutt’s crime empire, with Boba pledging to rule Jabba’s empire not through fear, but respect.
This is a great hook for a new Star Wars series on Disney+, one that continues to highlight the growing, cautious optimism during the time between the original Star Wars trilogy’s events, and the events of Disney’s sequel trilogy. Sadly though, as great as its foundational hook is, The Book of Boba Fett definitely appears to be suffering some growing pains in its debut, with its first episode, “Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land”, ultimately disappointing in several respects.
This series was already at a disadvantage through having to significantly reduce its scope from The Mandalorian as well. The Book of Boba Fett has to stay on just one planet, for starters, plus it doesn’t appear to tie in to the dying final efforts of the Empire and Moff Gideon at this point, or any other far-reaching galactic conflict. Instead, The Book of Boba Fett is about exploring and redefining an especially beloved Star Wars character through the lens of Disney’s revised canon, and how the smaller elements of Outer Rim criminals continue to get by after the Empire’s fall, an idea touched upon in The Mandalorian, but not universally explored in that series.
What’s particularly frustrating about, “Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land” however is that it awkwardly jumps between having to establish exactly how Boba survived the Sarlacc Pit, following his apparent demise in 1983’s Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and where he eventually stands during the time of The Mandalorian, when he begins to actually take control of Jabba’s empire. The narrative structure of this first episode is thus very messy and difficult to get into, leaving one to wonder whether The Book of Boba Fett was better off adding an additional episode to entirely focus on its flashbacks, and get them out of the way so it can efficiently get viewers up to speed regarding what’s at stake for Boba and Shand in the post-Empire era.
It also doesn’t help that the present-era plot surrounding The Book of Boba Fett doesn’t move forward that much during this first episode. Boba meets some characters that are affiliated with various Tatooine rackets, he goes to visit a Twi’lek cantina owner, Garsa Fwip, whom I’m sure will play an important role in the narrative later, he and Shand get attacked by unknown assassins, before capturing one alive, only to not reveal what intel they may have been able to extract yet, and that’s it so far. All the while, Boba is placed in and out of a healing tank that serves as the backdrop for this episode’s post-Return of the Jedi flashbacks. Like I said, this story structure is messy, and it doesn’t present the most inviting way to entice the uninitiated or more casual viewers into the series.
On the plus side, the past-era storytelling in this premiere episode for The Book of Boba Fett is generally better than the currently-inconsequential present-era narrative. This section of the plot chronicles exactly how Boba cut his way out of the Sarlacc Pit, only to eventually pass out in the desert, and have his armour and weapons stolen by Jawas, something that helps explain how Cobb Vanth got ahold of them in The Mandalorian. Boba was then captured by Tusken Raiders, whom he tries to escape several times, only to fail at every attempt. Boba nonetheless manages to win the respect of the Tusken Raiders after saving one of their children from a sand creature however, which is what presumably puts Boba on the path of inspiration when it comes to reframing Jabba’s extralegal affairs in the time following the Empire’s rule.
The idea of further humanizing the Tusken Raiders is great, especially through how effectively they could be tied to Boba’s new origin as a post-Empire crime lord on Tatooine. It should also come as no surprise that The Book of Boba Fett looks and sounds fantastic too, pretty much perfectly emulating the production values of the Star Wars movies once again, just like The Mandalorian before it. That’s why it’s annoying that the series’ storytelling hasn’t managed to effectively come together yet. We aren’t currently able to get a sense of who the important characters are, why they’re important, and how Boba means to fit in to their established circles. Instead, we’re given an appetizer that doesn’t tantalize as much as it does bore, with a mostly better flashback storyline wrapped around it that nonetheless probably would have been better off entirely occupying its own episode.
“Chapter 1: Stranger in a Strange Land” unfortunately doesn’t allow The Book of Boba Fett to triumphantly hit the ground running like The Mandalorian so effectively did, back when Disney+ as a whole made its debut in 2019. It’s still easy to see an incredible amount of potential throughout The Book of Boba Fett in this first episode, but potential is just that; Potential. That potential hasn’t currently been tapped, unfortunately leaving viewers with a rather clumsy start to what’s otherwise a very intriguing new chapter in the life of one of the Star Wars universe’s most fascinating characters. Hopefully, The Book of Boba Fett manages to better balance its narrative from here. Jabba’s crime ring is large and far-reaching, and there’s certainly a lot of ground to cover there, but without crucial context for most of it, even the innate coolness factor of Boba Fett can only go so far.
- Excellent production values, as usual
- Boba and Shand are a compelling lead duo
- Interesting attempt to add more humanity to the Tusken Raiders
- Sloppy story structure fails to engage
- Most of the key characters lack necessary context
- Pacing is currently too slow